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Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Advisory on DSM 5 and Children with Autism


Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2014-1: DSM-5

The latest version of the DSM, DSM-5, removes subcategories of autism, PDD-NOS, Aspergers, and Autistic Dosorder - now these subcategories are included under Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The purpose of this advisory is to:

  • Confirm that changes in the DSM-5 diagnostic categories do not alter a student's current eligibility status or IEP, nor does it change any of the federal and state laws or regulations related to the determination of special education eligibility or services.
  • Provide some detail on the changes to the DSM.

If a student has a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, his or her eligibility for special education services in Massachusetts does not change due to recent changes in the DSM-5 related to children on the autism spectrum. The DSM-5, although widely used, is only one diagnostic tool. Additionally, federal and state special education laws and regulations, not the DSM-5, prescribe the criteria for the listed definitions of disability, such as autism.

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